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How to accelerate and secure guest payments with Autocharge

Reducing the time it takes for guests to pay is a win-win for both guest and hotels. In this article, we explore how hotels can get paid faster and deliver great customer experience using Autocharge – the new way of managing “card-on-file”.

Why Autocharge beats old-school card-on-file payments

Hotels have long-since been bogged down by slow and onerous methods for facilitating guest payments for deposits and ancillary services – including a particularly ineffectual process called card-on-file payments which often relies verbal permission given over the phone or on paper forms to secure continuous payment authorisation. The traditional stored card method requires customers to manually fill out a form covering their merchant-initiated payment terms with the hotel. The method leaves guest payment details accessible to staff, and therefore at risk of fraud. Furthermore, card-on-file leaves guests in the dark over the charges being made on their bank accounts, because it relies on the hotel to notify customers of merchant-initiated payments. Often the first the guest hears of a new charge is when they check their statement. Customers are becoming used to solutions that charge instantly based on usage: automated parking apps, checkout-free grocery stores, etc. Imagine the hotel offering a similar process. Prommt’s Autocharge feature makes some drastically needed improvements to card-on-file payments and more closely aligns with customer expectations.

What is Autocharge?

When Autocharge is activated by a hotel using Prommt, the guest is asked at the point of initial payment for their stay to authorise automatic payments to be made for any add-ons they may incur. The customer is sent a branded payment link via email or text, authorises Autocharge, and then enters their card details to make a secure payment. Autocharge can be locked in for the duration of a customer’s stay, giving the hotel control over payments. The customer gets real time updates on any charges made. Each time a payment is made, an automated digital receipt is sent to the customer, containing a link to a customised page where they can see their last payment, edit the card used, or cancel the payment authority. What this amounts to is an instant payment system that immediately notifies the customer of payments made.

Autocharge holds numerous advantages over legacy card-on-file methods:
Autocharge vs. Traditional card-on-file
Traditional card-on-file
Clear, authorisation is secured from the customer in the process of making their first Autocharge payment. Authorisation is secured from the customer, but this can be verbal, or they may need to fill out and submit a paper document to give continuous payment authorisation.
The initial Autocharge payment is taken via 3D Secure which means it is protected from fraud. Subsequent charges cannot be 3D Secured, but as the initial authorisation by the customer is accessible via Prommt, any fraudulent chargebacks can be challenged. Transactions are highly insecure, and can be subject to card fraud and chargebacks.
Customer’s card details are tokenised and stored securely with the hotel’s payment processor, in compliance with PCI. Customer’s card details may be kept in their original format by the hotel. This leaves the details at risk of loss, theft or fraudulent misuse by hotel staff.
Merchant-initiated payments can be made simply and securely. Merchant-initiated payments can usually be made simply, but this depends on whether all charges are covered in the scope of the merchant-initiated payment terms agreed with the customer leaving open the possibility that the payment is challenged later.
Automated receipt messages or failed payment notifications are generated and sent to the customer after every payment. Customer is not notified of payments until they check their bank account, or a member of staff informs them their account has been charged.  
Rather than queuing at reception to pay for their stay via card reader, guests can pay using mobile phone or another connected device, wherever they are. Traditional checkout uses staff and space in the hotel lobby.

Why security = efficiency in hotel payments

The security of mobile guest payments is important on multiple levels.  Hotels that fail to protect their guests’ payment data face reputational damage and the potential for public backlash. Customers need reassurance that their payments are secure, and their personal data is being properly collected and stored. Prommt makes all of this easy and automatic. In one simple step, integrated with the transaction, the customer grants permission for the hotel to store their card details and for subsequent transactions to be made on the card by the merchant, without the need for the customer to grant specific permission on a case-by-case basis. Mandates such as GDPR and Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) mean hotels are more responsible for ensuring both payment and customer data security. GDPR compliance can be ensured by limiting card and other sensitive data exposure within the business. Prommt ensures that customers enter their data directly into secure, payment gateway-controlled fields and when we need to access cards held on file, in recurring plans, or for express checkout these are tokenised and stored in the PCI Level 1 environment of the payment gateway (not by Prommt or by the hotel). SCA will require the mandatory implementation of 3D Secure 2.0 for all but the smallest ecommerce transactions. Moving insecure transactions to ecommerce via Prommt enables hotels to comply with this mandate, and offer a better service to their customers. When things go wrong it’s good to have a record of a customer’s initial opt-in when a transaction is disputed. It is easier to challenge such a chargeback when raised, as you have documentary proof that the customer opted in. Prommt also integrates the payment page within the website of the hotel, giving the customer confidence that they are making a valid payment to a recognised hotel.

The bottom line   

Now we’ve discussed some of the ways instant, secure mobile payments can accelerate guest payment, let’s look at some stats on how much time hotels have saved by using this approach. Prommt client the Ashling Hotel has seen significant improvement in their guest payment times since implementing Autocharge, especially concerning payments for non-refundable bookings via The hotel’s reservations manager, Jacqueline Bissett, explains:

“With Prommt, when a non­-refundable booking is made via, the hotel staff send a payment request to the guest and expect payment within 1 to ­3 days to secure the reservation.”

“The process is now to send the payment requests, then the following day check what requests were not paid by applying a filter and resending the requests, noting on the second or third that payment has not been made.”

Prommt clients in the hotel sector report outstanding rates of ‘prompt’ customer payment. Flannery’s Hotel in Galway has seen “all payment requests sent are paid within that day and 40% of customers pay within 15 minutes.” The bottom line is that Prommt and Autocharge can make guest payments safer and quicker, bringing benefits to cashflow, customer experience and operational efficiency. Find out how we can transform payments for your hotel in the space of a few days.